Calls for tolerance flow as debate rages over heckling

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The heckling of Deputy President William Ruto at a rally he attended alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kisumu last week has left local leaders torn along party lines and trading accusations as to the cause.

But they all condemned the incident, which has been viewed as setting a wrong precedence in the campaigns ahead of the August 8 General Election.

While leaders from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) accused Mr Ruto of provoking the public, their Jubilee counterparts downplayed the jeering that only targeted the DP, terming it an isolated case.

Mr Ruto was jeered by a crowd donning red Jubilee t-shirts in Kisumu, where he and President Kenyatta were launching a brewery, forcing him to give up the microphone.

Mr Peter Okello, a commentator on Nyanza politics, said Jubilee needed to deploy its team of national officials including Mr David Murathe and Mr Caleb Kositany, who nearly delivered the North Ugenya MCA seat to Jubilee through Steve Mwanga in the by-election conducted on August 2015.

During the polls, Mr Mwanga secured 1,672 votes against Mr Shabban Omar of ODM who got 3,365 votes.

“The current team of Jubilee leaders campaigning in Nyanza are not good grassroots mobilisers.

“There is a need to identify people like Mwanga to lead the campaigns under the auspices of Murathe and Kositany,” he said.

Mr Mwanga is remembered for giving current Siaya Senator James Orengo a run for his money in the 2007 parliamentary contest in Ugenya.

But Jubilee nominated Senator Joy Gwendo said: “Shouting Nasa while donning Jubilee T-shirts or jeering the DP and saying you like the President is like telling your children you like them but hate their mother. Isn’t that pretentious?”

ODM National chairman John Mbadi said: “The DP needs to ask himself why he is being heckled.

“He needs to change the way he conducts his politics, especially his speech. I think his advisers need to work on his speech very well, both written and off the cuff.”

“He needs to appreciate his position as the DP. The status of that position requires that he is respected.

“But you will only be respected when you show respect to yourself and to others,” Mr Mbadi added.

He said the DP had received similar treatment in Baringo and Narok counties and he should ask himself why this was becoming common.

But even though both sides of the political divide have condemned the incident, political analyst Barrack Muluka argues that the DP’s brand of politics was his main undoing, and hurting any prospects of penetrating the Nasa stronghold.

“I suspect that DP William Ruto is easily the most polarising politician in the country today. I cannot think of anybody throughout my active observation of politics in the country from the 1970s,” he said.

He says that in politics people differ on ideology, principles and positions on issues, but the DP “seems to take it to a new level, which is deep-seated, kind of personalised hostility,” Mr Muluka told the Daily Nation.

Mr Muluka further argues that Mr Ruto approaches politics “in a manner that suggests we are hostile to each other and this is quite different from the kind of politics of the President”.

But Karachuonyo MP James Rege, who heads the Jubilee Nyanza campaign team, claimed that the heckling targeting the DP was planned ahead of the tour.

He linked it to an earlier statement by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ that Mr Ruto was not welcome in the region during the tours.

“It is clear that the DP’s heckling was planned. How come some opposition officials warned him not to accompany the President and these unfortunate incidents occurred?” he asked.

Kisumu County Jubilee coordinator Steve Biko said: “That was an isolated case and action needs to be taken to arrest the situation. There must be tolerance across the board.”

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale remained cagey about the DP’s heckling in Kisumu.

But in reference to Jubilee’s rally in Nyamira addressed by Mr Ruto last Thursday, barely a day after the DP was heckled in Kisumu, Mr Duale termed it successful.

But Maseno University don and political analyst Tom Mboya blames Mr Ruto for “creating many enemies as a politician”.

“Ruto has been at loggerheads with Gideon Moi. The supremacy battle between Ruto and Gideon in Baringo recently was a pointer to something,” Mr Mboya said.

During their tour of Nyanza, President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto doled out goodies to locals.

They included commissioning of the new Mbita bridge, which connects Rusinga Island to the mainland; creation of a new district called Suba Central and promise of a new road.

In the 2013 election, President Kenyatta got 725 and 4,630 votes against Mr Odinga’s 303,447 and 337,232 in Homa Bay and Kisumu counties respectively.